Bipolar disorder, with its dramatic mood swings, is particularly difficult to live with but many of those who do have found a way through. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, is one of these. She is set to return to the screen in this role in the new Star Wars VII film. Fisher is also a comic and has turned her experiences with bipolar into material for her comedy. She writes “Having waited my entire life to get an award for something, I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill, I’m apparently very good at it.”
However, in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, Dr Wim Distelmans, the chairman of the Belgian Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission, recently enthused about euthanasia as the solution for people with bipolar disorder:
Manic depressive patients, in their manic moments, do the most improbable things: plunder their bank account, stay weeks in a five star hotel, buy numerous cars in one day. At that stage they are not mentally competent, that is obvious. But in moments of depression and exhaustion to the baseline, then they are indeed competent. Then they can say, for example: “I have lived for thirty years crazy highs and lows, I’ve tried everything to break that infernal cycle, including psychiatric hospitalization, but now I’m back on the baseline, and I know I have a few weeks left before I am back for a dip in the depth or a jump in height.” These are people who are eligible for euthanasia.
About 50 people were killed by euthanasia in Belgium in 2014 for mental health issues.